Shortcut through Shul

Laura Thor

"I remember passing through the college chapel late at night, a shortcut to my dorm in the former parish house. Only the red glow of the sanctuary candle lit the way. The huge stone place echoed the cold of winter wind outside, and moonlight sometimes enlivened the rose windows; I was so deliciously alone, just me and the light-and dark-of God’s presence. Was God there? I felt her, him, in those times. We touched in that space I passed through."

(ה) ... לֹא יִכָּנֵס לְהַר הַבַּיִת בְּמַקְלוֹ, וּבְמִנְעָלוֹ, וּבְפֻנְדָּתוֹ, וּבְאָבָק שֶׁעַל רַגְלָיו, וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂנּוּ קַפַּנְדַּרְיָא, וּרְקִיקָה מִקַּל וָחֹמֶר.

(5) . . . In deference to the Temple, one may not enter the Temple Mount with his staff, his shoes, his money belt [punda], or even the dust on his feet. One may not make the Temple a shortcut to pass through it, and through an a fortiori inference, all the more so one may not spit on the Temple Mount.

The mishna seems clear; we're not to walk through the Temple as a shortcut. What does the gemara add?

אֵין עוֹשִׂין אוֹתוֹ קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא מַאי ״קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא״? אָמַר רָבָא: קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא כִּשְׁמָהּ. מַאי כִּשְׁמָהּ? כְּמַאן דְּאָמַר: אַדְּמַקֵּיפְנָא אַדָּרֵי, אֵיעוּל בְּהָא. אָמַר רַבִּי אֲבָהוּ: אִם הָיָה שְׁבִיל מֵעִיקָּרָא — מוּתָּר. אָמַר רַב נַחְמָן בַּר יִצְחָק: הַנִּכְנָס עַל מְנָת שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲשׂוֹת קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא — מוּתָּר לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא. וְאָמַר רַבִּי חֶלְבּוֹ אָמַר רַב הוּנָא: הַנִּכְנָס לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת לְהִתְפַּלֵּל — מוּתָּר לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וּבְבֹא עַם הָאָרֶץ לִפְנֵי ה׳ בַּמּוֹעֲדִים הַבָּא דֶּרֶךְ שַׁעַר צָפוֹן לְהִשְׁתַּחֲווֹת יֵצֵא דֶּרֶךְ שַׁעַר נֶגֶב״.

§ The mishna teaches that even if a synagogue fell into ruin, it may not be made into a kappendarya.

The Gemara asks: What is meant by kappendarya?

Rava said: A shortcut, as implied by its name. The Gemara clarifies: What do you mean by adding: As implied by its name? It is like one who said: Instead of going around the entire row of houses [makkifna addari] to get to the other side, thereby lengthening my journey, I will enter this house and walk through it to the other side. The word kappendarya sounds like a contraction of makkifna addari. This is what Rava meant by saying: As implied by its name.

Rabbi Abbahu said: If a public path had initially passed through that location, before the synagogue was built, it is permitted to continue to use it as a shortcut, for the honor due to a synagogue cannot annul the public’s right of access to the path.

Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: With regard to one who enters a synagogue without intending to make it into a shortcut, when he leaves he is permitted to make it into a shortcut for himself, by leaving through the exit on the other side of the building.

And Rabbi Ḥelbo said that Rav Huna said: With regard to one who enters a synagogue to pray, he is permitted to make it into a shortcut for himself by leaving through a different exit, and it is fitting to do so, as it is stated: “And when the people of the land shall come before the Lord in the appointed seasons, he that enters by way of the north gate to bow down shall go forth by the way of the south gate” (Ezekiel 46:9). This indicates that it is a show of respect not to leave through the same entrance through which one came in; it is better to leave through the other side.

What exception does Rabbi Abbahu make? What does this exception tell us about the relative status of a synagogue building?

Rav Nahman bar Yitzhak and Rav Huna (via Rabbi Helbo) both allow the use of a shortcut through a synagogue in limited circumstances. What are those circumstances, and what are the differences between their allowances?

(ט) וּבְב֨וֹא עַם־הָאָ֜רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהֹוָה֮ בַּמּוֹעֲדִים֒ הַבָּ֡א דֶּרֶךְ־שַׁ֨עַר צָפ֜וֹן לְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֺ֗ת יֵצֵא֙ דֶּרֶךְ־שַׁ֣עַר נֶ֔גֶב וְהַבָּא֙ דֶּרֶךְ־שַׁ֣עַר נֶ֔גֶב יֵצֵ֖א דֶּרֶךְ־שַׁ֣עַר צָפ֑וֹנָה לֹ֣א יָשׁ֗וּב דֶּ֤רֶךְ הַשַּׁ֙עַר֙ אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֣א ב֔וֹ כִּ֥י נִכְח֖וֹ (יצאו) [יֵצֵֽא]׃

(9) But on the fixed occasions, when the common people [as opposed to the monarch] come before God, whoever enters by the north gate to bow low shall leave by the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate shall leave by the north gate. They shall not go back through the gate by which they came in, but shall go out by the opposite one.-b

This is the full Ezekiel verse, as referenced above by Rav Huna (via Rabbi Helbo). We learn that those entering from each gate are encouraged to exit through the opposite gate (i.e., there is not a designated entrance and exit gate; rather movement in both directions).

(ח) הָיָה לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת אוֹ לְבֵית הַמִּדְרָשׁ שְׁנֵי פְּתָחִין לֹא יַעֲשֶׂנּוּ קַפַּנְדַּרְיָא כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס בְּפֶתַח זֶה וְיֵצֵא בַּפֶּתַח שֶׁכְּנֶגְדּוֹ לְקָרֵב הַדֶּרֶךְ. שֶׁאָסוּר לִכָּנֵס בָּהֶן אֶלָּא לִדְבַר מִצְוָה:

(8) Where a synagogue or house of study has two doors, one may not use it as a passage, entering at one door and leaving by the other to shorten a journey, since it is forbidden to enter these buildings except to fulfill a religious duty.

Is the Rambam (above) contradicting the gemara with a stringency? Or is he in agreement with Rav Huna (via Rabbi Helbo)?

(ה) היו לב"ה שני פתחים לא יכנס בפתח זה לעשותו דרך לצאת בפתח השני לקצר דרכו ואם היה הדרך עובר קודם שנבנה ב"ה מותר וכן אם לא נכנס בו תחלה כדי לקצר דרכו מותר לעשותו דרך וכשנכנס בו להתפלל מותר למי שנכנס בפתח זה לצאת בפתח אחר:

(5) If the synagogue has two entrances, one should not enter through one to make a path to the second one to shorten your route. If there was a path there before they built the synagogue, it is permitted. Similarly, if one didn't enter initially to take a short cut, it is permitted to make a path. When you enter to pray, you can leave from a different way than you came.

Rabbi Yosef Caro summarizes our gemara. He makes clear what I believe to be the distinction between the cases presented; namely, intention. Are you entering a sanctuary with the intent of taking a shortcut through the room? Did you enter in order to pray, and may therefore exit from a different door than the one from which you entered? Or did you enter without the intention to take a short cut, but are anyway permitted to take one?

שָׁאֲלוּ תַּלְמִידָיו אֶת רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן שַׁמּוּעַ בַּמָּה הֶאֱרַכְתָּ יָמִים אָמַר לָהֶן מִיָּמַי לֹא עָשִׂיתִי בֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת קַפֶּנְדַּרְיָא וְלֹא פָּסַעְתִּי עַל רָאשֵׁי עַם קוֹדֶשׁ וְלֹא נָשָׂאתִי כַּפַּי בְּלֹא בְּרָכָה
§ Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua was once asked by his disciples: To what do you attribute your longevity? He said to them: In all my days, I never made a shortcut [kappendarya] through a synagogue. Nor did I ever stride over the heads of the sacred people, i.e., I never stepped over people sitting in the study hall in order to reach my place, so as not to appear scornful of them. And I never lifted my hands for the Priestly Benediction without first reciting a blessing.

Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua attributes his longevity to three things. What do they have in common?